RUGBY LEAGUE: While another serious injury to the Melbourne Storm-contracted Slade Griffin has cast doubt over his playing future, his absence places two mates on a collision course.
Sunshine Coast Falcons Jay Lobwein and Matt Gilliman are set to battle it out for a chance to secure a more permanent spot in the side.
While both are determined to press their claims, their rivalry could hardly be friendlier.
Close friends away from footy as well as on the park, they have been training the house down, along with the rest of the squad, according to coach Glen Dreger.
Lobwein said yesterday: "I feel for Slade. It's very unfortunate for him - it's his third knee I think.
"However, it does open up an opportunity for me and Matty (Gilliman)."
Lobwein has been named on the bench for the away clash against the Tweed Heads Seagulls on Sunday - his 23rd birthday - and is hoping to impress, although he is unsure of how many minutes he will get behind starting hooker Billy Brittain.
"I've got the first opportunity to press my claims," Lobwein said.
"We have high expectations of ourselves at the club and I have to make the most of it.
"I always want to put in some good performances for the Sunny Coast - all my mates are here."
LOBWEIN, who is his third season at the Falcons, and Gilliman are considered crucial parts of the Falcons' squad, Dreger says.
"There's plenty of opportunity for the boys there," the coach said.
"They've been training really well and without those blokes training like they are and doing the job for us we wouldn't be able to get the result like we did on the weekend (a 36-10 win over the PNG Hunters)."
Gilliman, 22, a former Kawana Dolphin and a fourth-year physiotherapy student, echoed Lobwein's sentiments about the prospect of either of them being elevated to the first team.
"Yeah I guess it is pretty exciting to see if we'll get a crack," he said.
"If I wasn't playing I'd probably want him (Lobwein) to be playing.
"For me it's about getting the chance or opportunity to play with these boys that I've been working hard with off the field."
Asked if there was any added pressure in knowing they would be facing limited game time and a battle to usurp Brittain, Gilliman said it was not something he focused on when in the thick of the action.
"I guess that goes through your mind, but you just have to go out there and do your job," he said.
Time will tell whether one of the local lads can claim the No.9 jersey this season.
Courtesy of Scott Sawyer of Sunshine Coast Daily